360 degree video inside Google's self-driving car

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A reporter from the Sacramento Bee took a ride in Google's self-driving car a few days ago, one of their converted Lexus vehicles. This video is a bit different from others in that it's 360 degrees, so you can change the angle and watch whomever in the car you want as they drive around.

You'll notice how assertive the car can be now compared to a few years ago. It's now capable for example of seeing a car coming as it merges and deciding that it's going to go first, followed by a quick acceleration.


What life is like in Szczecin

Yesterday I had the opportunity to ask a few people what life is like in Szczecin (formerly Stettin), and other previously German cities. The question I asked was whether there are any stereotypes about people in these cities due to being previously German - that people from Szczecin are thought to be efficient or hardworking, the trains run on time, etc., whether there are any light-hearted stereotypes that come from their unique history.

So why Szczecin? The interest comes from a quote from l'Allemagne Moderne (my English translation of the book here) where Huret references a canal being planned to link Berlin to the sea by Stettin:

Tous les jours, des changements importants se font dans l'organisation des services publics; il n'est pas d'amélioration qu'on ne recherche et qu'on ne pousse à bout, — et vite ! Pour ne parler que des plus grands projets à l'étude, dans quelques années un canal, déjà voté par le Parlement, rejoindra Berlin à Stettin, et Berlin deviendra port de mer avant Paris. Deux ports sont en projet au nord et à l'est de la ville, avec de vastes entrepôts. 
AVENIR DE BERLIN Quel avenir est réservé à la capitale ! La Sprée communique avec la Havel, qui communique avec l'Elbe. Berlin sera donc relié à la mer, de deux côtés, par Stettin et par Hambourg. Les facilités de vie attireront de plus en plus les populations.
So let's see what they wrote.

The being blocked by Hamburg is an interesting point. If you look at the city's location it is ideally placed to be a secondary port for Berlin:

but compared to the rest of Poland it's quite far removed from the largest cities. Szczecin is the grouping of pixels in the far northwest.

In short, it's not easy to compete when you're the port of Szczecin.


Canadian exports to Iran might reach $1 billion

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Canada has finally gotten around to removing most of its sanctions on Iran (a bit slow in my opinion compared to Europe which is already eating our lunch), and I found a number here about exports to Iran before:

Canada’s exports to Iran peaked at $772 million in 1997. With the imposition of sanctions, this number declined to $67 million in 2014 (comprising mostly food products exempt from sanctions).
So my $1 billion isn't based on anything more than the fact that both countries have larger economies and populations than in 1997. And even that isn't that large a number.

On the whole Iran and Canada are an odd match for trading, since they are far from each other and export much of the same items: petroleum, raw materials, etc., and the some of the obvious items Iran has that we don't are ones like nuts and caviar and rugs and things. Now if Canada's Bombardier can manage to sign a contract with Iran Air for a good number of planes then it'll be a different story. Bombardier is good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory though so who knows what will happen there. If they can't get a contract from a country that now needs 600 or so planes and has $100 billion freed up to do it, then that will tell us something about the company.

Personally though I think they will buy planes from as many countries as possible, including Canada, for two reasons:

1) Buying a jet doesn't mean getting a jet right away. Each company has different waiting times and Iran Air isn't in the mood to wait.

2) The more countries they sign contracts with the less eager the world will be to snap sanctions back into place later on if something goes awry. See the $15 billion contract for armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia that Canada does not want to nullify for an example of this.


Jules Verne in Yiddish

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Check it out, published in 1913:


And here's another:



Why Japan uses kanji

Saturday, January 02, 2016

I came across this video today that explains it better than any other single video I've seen on the subject:

I have two points to add: one is that Korea has recently (past decade and a bit) started learning hanja again, not to write Korean in daily life but on a more macro- and historical scale, and also because it's good prep for Chinese and Japanese. Now it's only the generation in their 30s and 40s that doesn't know more than a few dozen hanja, for the most part.

The other point: one other reason not to get rid of kanji is because of China. It seems like an obvious point but China since the early 20th century until about a decade and a bit ago has more or less been a non-entity, which is an aberration when you consider its traditional role and strength. Now that China is back where it has traditionally been, it has become an easy country to point to when referencing the benefits of kanji / hanja.


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